Taking the Regina transit system may not seem like a big deal for most, but for disabled people using the paratransit system can be a challenge.
Bryan Smith, a recent University of Regina history graduate who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, started using the system nine years ago and has noticed one pressing issue.
“The wait times are frustrating, especially when you have somewhere to be,” Smith, 28, said. “I understand it’s a service, but they expect you to be early and then be okay with it being 45 minutes late.”
Lynette Griffin, Regina’s paratransit and accessibility manager, is aware there is an issue and said the service takes steps to ensure riders aren’t stuck waiting for a bus to arrive.
“Occasionally we have a customer that we’re picking up that is slow coming out that will put the bus behind or there’s a bus that will encounter a train or something like that that will put the bus behind,” Griffin said. “And then unfortunately, the bus does run a little bit late for picking people up.”
When a bus is going to be late, a monitoring screen alerts the dispatcher by showing red.
“We try to keep an eye on the buses,” Griffin said. “Our scheduling system does show when the buses are running late, it will make the buses red on the screen. If that happens the clerks will try to move calls off those red buses on to other buses to try to get the buses back on time. Unfortunately, sometimes they can’t always do that and we do run late for trips once in a while.”
Smith said paratransit could do better and feels the disabled community isn’t being treated fairly.
“It just makes it seem like they’re undervaluing the disabled communities’ time,” Smith said. ”As a whole we’re being punished because many of us can’t drive. The community itself is being told intentionally or otherwise that our time is less valuable.”
The City of Regina has 33 paratransit buses, up from 31 the previous year and 30 in 2016, according to Griffin. Griffin noted when the buses are too full, paratransit calls in taxies to handle some of the overflow.
“Our buses run at full capacity right now,” Griffin said. “We don’t have many times our buses aren’t fully used, but we’re really not turning away many trips. We’re accommodating more than 99 per cent of all trips that are requested in advance.”
Paratransit has accommodated 4,000 more trips this year than in 2017.